From San Michele towards Monte Cairo.
Towards Cassino monastery from near to 2/LIR supply echelon area.
For 25 days during April 1944, CQMS Edmund O’Sullivan had journeyed across the Rapido valley from his supply base near San Michele to the summit of Monte Castellone.
From the hilly area near to San Michele, a marvellous view can be gained by gazing across the wide stretch of the Rapido valley towards the Cassino massif with Caira village tucked into the lower slopes of Monte Castellone. To the left, is a prominent view of Castle Hill and overhanging it all, the abbey of Monte Cassino. To the far left and on the near side of the valley is the rocky outline of the dogs tooth shaped Monte Trocchio which stares directly across to Monastery Hill. Whilst exploring the San Michele area, we were invited by a house owner to explore a olive oil palm orchard in her back garden and found flat ground that would clearly be suitable for a supply echelon area with a number of small gorges that could hide the waiting supply trains from the German occupied mountains across the valley.
Just above San Michele, we drove into the area known as Inferno track, within a deep winding gorge, and followed the road created by the FEC in January 1944 when it was given its unappealing moniker. CQMS O’Sullivan followed this route from San Michele before entering the Rapido valley, using the track known as the “Mad Mile”, before crossing the Rapido river itself north of the old Italian army barracks. Throughout this journey, the clock would be ticking in the race against time in being able to supply the troops on the summit of Monte Castellone and then be able to return to the protected area near to San Michele by daylight.
The road north from Cassino to the Italian barracks is known as the Caruso Road, with clear signs of many dilapidated buildings, which had previously been occupied by the Italian military. In 1944, the whole area to the right of the road had been flooded after the Germans had dammed the upper stretches of the Rapido river. Just beyond the barracks, a sharp turn off to the left passes through a narrow defile, before we reached Caira village, the site of the Irish Brigade HQ, with 2/LIR’s Battalion HQ being located further up the slopes of Monte Castellone.